David Hontiveros is one of the most prolific writers of speculative fiction in the country today. He’s won a Palanca award and been nominated for a National Book Award, and his work spans both prose (his Penumbra novellas) and comics (Bathala: Apokalypsis). Hontiveros recently re-released his online novel Pelicula as an ebook for the Amazon Kindle and Smashwords. I thought it might be a good time to talk to Dave about the novel, superheroes, fantaseryes, and the state of publishing in the country. Here’s what he had to say:
[Art by Kajo Baldisimo]
Tell us a little bit about Pelicula. Do you think it will appeal to fans of science fiction and fantasy, particularly the superhero subgenre?
Pelicula’s about a young up-and-coming actor, Luis Conrado, as he navigates the tricky and turbulent waters of the Philippine showbiz industry, something that’s already difficult under normal real life circumstances.
In the novel, I’ve populated the industry with supernatural creatures from local folklore, who are the movers and shakers of the scene, multiplying the difficulties exponentially as a result.
Luis also happens to be the star of the highly-rated and uberpopular fantaserye, Habagat, on which he plays the title role, the super-bayani of the Philippines, Habagat.
Given that’s there a lot of superhero stuff in the novel– with some of my thoughts regarding superheroes, and what they mean to us as individuals and as a society, and the potentials of their physicality in the real world, informing the narrative– I sincerely hope that Pelicula appeals to that section of the audience into SF/fantasy and superheroes, of which I’m a proud member of, if that isn’t too obvious yet.
Of course, one always hopes for a broader section of readership, so hopefully other sections are pulled in by the romance angle, as Luis falls in love with a mannikin, an actress created by occult means to be the ultimate movie star. (So, aside from my thoughts about superheroes, some of the thoughts and impressions of a lifelong film geek about the film industry also serve to inform Pelicula.)
[Art by Ian Sta. Maria]
You mentioned in your author’s note a love for “live-action superheroics”. Most people would have just said “superheroes.” What is it about the live-action adaptations that interest you?
That goes way back to my grade school days, when, while reading superhero comics, I’d be constantly fascinated by the idea of these heroes stepping out of the panels and into the real, physical world. Things like how would they carry themselves, what would their body language be, what would their costumes look like, how would they sound, kept me preoccupied long past the reading of the comic itself.
It was fascinating to see the ‘50’s TV Superman, and the ‘60’s TV Batman and Green Hornet, and even back then, somewhere at the back of my young head, I was beginning to understand that tone was something that affected the entire package, and that you could have wildly different interpretations of the same character and that was fine (certainly, Adam West was not the 1970’s comic Batman, and George Reeves seemed more interested in tackling gangsters and hoods than interstellar menaces like Brainiac). Perhaps more tellingly, I was also being taught, quite subconsciously during those early years, that budget also dictated how a superhero’s live-action adventures were approached and executed.
Then Richard Donner’s Superman detonated across my young geek psyche, and that was it. If I wasn’t a lifelong fan of the stuff yet, I certainly was when I stepped out of the theater. It was the greatest superhero ever to grace a comic book panel, in real life. Yes, a man could indeed fly!
From that point on, it’s been a constant search for all sorts and manner of live-action superheroics, from the low budget ‘80’s Marvel productions like Captain America (with J.D. Salinger’s son as Cap!) to the glorious cheese of the ‘70’s Superman rip-off, Supersonic Man (still a personal favorite) to the fantastic wire fu/men in rubber monster suits extravaganza of Guyver: Dark Hero, with David Hayter, voice of Solid Snake and Captain America, and screenwriter of X-Men and Watchmen playing Guyver when he’s out of the bio-armor (the mind boggles at the audacious level of that geek cred).
The Betamax era brought treasures like the Kirk Alyn Superman serials my way, while today’s internet offers all the episodes of the zany Japanese Spider-Man TV show on marvel.com (who can resist Amazoness with her pink hooker wig?).
There’s the fantastic world of the superhero fan film out there, and the amazing costume work being done on the cosplay scene.
Then there’s the maddening variety of live-action superheroics in non-English tongues: everything from Indonesia’s Panji Manusia Milenium and Superboy on TV, all the way to the big screen, where we find curious gems like Thailand’s Mercury Man and India’s Krrish, the latter complete with Bollywood-style song-and-dance numbers!
Not to mention the martial arts badassery courtesy of first, Jet Li, then Andy On in Tsui Hark’s Black Mask movies, or the killer moves brought to us by Marko Zaror in Chile’s Mirageman.
Plus the insane tokusatsu sugar rush of Ultraman or Kamen Rider. (And yes, at this juncture we can safely toss our own Captain Barbell and Darna and Zsa-Zsa Zaturnnah into the mix.)
Now, despite what it may sound like, it’s not just about the kickass action, or the amusement and laughs one can find in some of these titles (and there are those, believe me), but it’s about that universal feeling of hope inherent in the idea of a hero who can make things right by doing what he does best: getting into the spandex and kicking some baddie ass.
There’s something reassuring about that thought, that no matter where we are on the globe, no matter the geographic distance and the cultural differences, there is always that shared belief in the power of the hero to make things right. That’s what I try to find in any title I happen to come across, and it’s there, even if it’s in some tiny moment or throw-away line or some badly-written, awkwardly-acted, and terribly-shot scene, it’s there, and it’s honestly a really nice thing to see.
These days, when part of the definition of “Hollywood summer blockbuster” seems to be the word “superhero,” I’m like a deliriously happy pig at an overflowing trough. Now, it’s become about finding the off-kilter, the atypical, the ones that say more and delve deeper into (or even subvert) the material; the Hancock as opposed to the Iron Man 2, the Defendor as opposed to the Daredevil. (And looking back at that, I realize that I’ve singled out two titles that are actually original pieces, as opposed to comic book adaptations.)
But still, typical narrative or otherwise, original or adapted, it’s about that idea of how a superhero can impact on the real, physical world, and taking that thought all the way to its possible real world end point, how can I emulate the best about a superhero even if I’m not actually one at all?
Read the rest of this entry »